[MUD-Dev] DGN: MMOG Game Economies

William Leader leader at k2wrpg.org
Thu Nov 10 01:53:41 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005

Paolo Piselli wrote:

> This is a very interesting discussion, but theories about
> controlling inflation must be a common topic in economics, and we
> should not pretend to be able to reinvent such a well-studies
> field.  Does anyone have any good references for background
> reading on this material?

This was one of the main points that came up in my many discussions
with my Economics professor. Time and time again we ran into the
problem that the rules are simply not the same.

Some examples of how things are different:

  - Interest Rates - Its generally accepted that raising interest
  rates combats inflation but typically MMO's do not have interest
  rates, because there are not usually Banking institutions. And
  there is almost never an institution that resembles a federal

  - Mints - Mints produce currency of all forms, but I would be
  willing to bet that there is no MMO that has the equivalent of a
  Mint. Instead currency is created all over the place by monster
  drops, quest rewards, merchants.

  - Government - The governments often interfere with the economy
  when appropriate. MMO's rarely have governments aside from the
  Developer Dictator who probably has better things to do with their
  Time. This one wipes out a huge chunk of real world economics.

  - Minimum Wage - I know of no MMO that has a minimum wage
  (although one could probably be created.)  Non-Renewable Resources
  - I can't think of many games were players could actually run out
  of something. Almost everything has an infinite supply even if it
  only trickles out over time.

  - Investors - The kind of investment where players put their money
  into the hands of others (banks, markets, futures etc.) just never
  happens. the only kind of investment that really happens is the
  kind where the player buys a better sword so they can kill
  monsters faster.

  - Smart Merchants - Most NPC merchants do not adjust their prices
  to reflect supply and demand. It doesn't matter how many rat tails
  you sell to a merchant the price all ways stays the same. Even if
  the merchant has 10,000 rat tails in his inventory the price never
  goes down.

  - Very small service and manufacturing industry - MMO's typically
  have a small service industry, that is mostly tied up with
  magic. Healing, Buffs, Removing curses. this compared to the...

  - Huge Farming/Mining/Hunting Industry - While players don't
  typically grow corn, they do run out and grow gold and other times
  by running around killing stuff and picking up what the kill
  drops. Players spend a huge amount of time collecting resources,
  and very little time really doing anything with those collections.

  - Instant Trade skills - In the real world it takes days maybe
  weeks to create a suit of armor, but a player can conceivable do
  it in a few dozen mouse clicks. This reduces the value that a
  player adds to the metal when they change it into armor. Because
  the amount of time needed is trivial, the cost of player crafted
  items (typically stuff that far better than anything else in the
  MMO) also becomes trivially priced. Many trade skilled players
  spend far more time collecting ingredients then combining them.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. There is a great deal
that is different, so much of what is studied about real world
economics just doesn't work in MMO's. The few things that are the
same are much more related to Human Behavior. Things like supply and
demand, perceived value, Competition, and Free markets all still
happen, but over all they are just too different. With that in mind,
I can't think of a better place than MUD-Dev to hash out how MMO
Economies work.

- William Leader
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